Moscow is now a part of the Russian Federation, but until 23 years ago, it was the capital of the Soviet Union. Reminders of the city’s Soviet past abound, with impressive yet deceiving displays of grandeur and strength that bring to mind the shortages and propaganda which characterized the times.
Before coming to Russia, I imagined Moscow to be a bit like London: a large city that has become an amalgam of its past, present, and future. And on the surface, it definitely is. But what is fascinating about Moscow is the fact one can’t help but be taken aback by some of the reminders that this modern, cosmopolitan city was once a part of the USSR. So here I present some of the most interesting Soviet sights in Moscow.
One of the most apparent reminders of the Soviet era is actually underground. Constructed during Stalin’s regime, the Metro is now one of the most efficient ways to travel through Moscow. Commuting isn’t typically seen as an exciting experience, but truly this one was! By the end of the trip, I had regretted not getting out at each of the stops just to have a look around.
The Metro is very ornate (for a metro, that is), and each stop is designed with a different Soviet theme. In Ploshad Revolutsii (Пло́щадь Револю́ции), for example, bronze Soviet revolutionary statues grace the archways. One of the most interesting representations of Soviet society is the large statue in Partizanskaya (Партизанская), which depicts partisans fighting for the homeland. And the Mayakovskaya (Маяковская) metro ceilings reveal small but discernible Soviet emblems, including the hammer and sickle. These symbols essentially became Moscow’s equivalent of Disney’s “Hidden Mickeys”, as I found myself finding them in random places throughout the city 😛
An interesting reminder of the former Soviet Union in Moscow is the “cult of personality” that surrounds its past leaders. In fact, a visit here would not be complete without seeing people dressed as Lenin and Stalin. My photo did not turn out, but this was one of two Lenin and Stalin look-a-like pairs.
Many Soviet leaders are buried in the most recognizable part of Moscow- the Red Square. The Necropolis lies inside the square, along the walls of the Kremlin. It includes the graves of many famous (and infamous) leaders, including Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov, and Stalin.
Visitors can only see the necropolis if they also go to Lenin’s mausoleum, which perhaps best represents the cult of personality that encompasses leadership during Soviet times. For those who don’t know, Vladimir Lenin established the Soviet Union. His body was embalmed after his death in 1924 and is now on public display in a mausoleum that was built especially for this purpose…you heard that right! Personally, I think this is a “can’t miss” sight in Moscow, but some may find it a little morbid.
Pictures of the body can’t be taken while inside, and the guards are very strict about this. Rules about visiting the Mausoleum are constantly changing, so I’ve included the latest and most accurate information:
-The mausoleum is free; It’s open every day except Mondays and Fridays.
-There is a line to get in, but it is very short. Typically, visitors will only need to wait a few minutes at most. At least during the Winter months.
-There are metal detectors at the entrance, where bags will be inspected. Bags no longer have to be checked inside the State History Museum as they have been before.
-Photos can be taken outside on the Necropolis, but cameras need to be put away once inside the Mausoleum. Guards will also instruct visitors to take off their hats.
One of the biggest displays of Moscow’s Soviet past is the architecture throughout the city. Some of the tallest buildings were created under the command of Stalin, who had them constructed to display the great wealth and success of the USSR. The imposing Soviet towers known as the “Seven Sisters” can be polarizing to onlookers. Some people think they are really ugly, while others think they are beautiful. I’ll go with the second description, as I quite like them…but you can decide for yourself 😉
(Above: Hotel Ukraina, now a Radisson; Below: Moscow State University)
While Moscow is now a part of the Russian Federation, it’s history as the Soviet capital is abundantly clear. From the Soviet symbols throughout the city’s Metro, to the nostalgic depictions of past leaders, it’s amazing to see little pieces of the past that remain.
This is just a brief introduction to some of the many Soviet sights throughout Moscow, but any history buff could spend days walking around the city without getting bored. For those who want to bring something back home, most tourist areas also sell USSR souvenirs. From lighters to shot glasses, to authentic military memorabilia, Russia acknowledges and (somewhat ironically) capitalizes on this part of their history.
© Destination Duo, 2014-2015